Little Lambs backpacks

Ted Chalfant shows of the contents of one of the backpacks in the Little Lambs warehouse in Logan on Thursday that will be distributed this weekend to children in need.

Hundreds of backpacks — 663, to be exact — are packed and ready to go for the upcoming school year at the Little Lambs warehouse in Logan.

“We really want these kids to start the school year out right on a level playing field with every other child,” said Ted Chalfant who started the Little Lambs Foundation with his wife, Stefanee.

This is the sixth year Little Lambs has held a school supply drive and backpack distribution event for foster and kinship families in Cache Valley. Last year, the program was expanded to include low-income families as well.

In addition to helping kids, Ted said the event also supports teachers.

“It lessens the burden on the teachers because these kids are coming ready, prepared for school,” Ted said. “If we don’t help these kids, then a lot of times the teachers have to help provide it.”

The backpacks are filled with supplies such as notebooks, binders and pencils. Financial and in-kind donations from community members and businesses are what make the drive possible.

“It is amazing to have the community support because without our community, none of this would be possible and the kids wouldn’t be getting the proper supplies they need,” Stefanee said.

This year, 500 of the backpacks Little Lambs is distributing were collected by Ashley Swain and her three sons, ages 6 to 10. This is the fifth year Swain and her family have raised money to purchase backpacks for children in need in the valley.

“One day we were back-to-school shopping and I just had the thought about all the kids who don’t get to go pick out new backpacks and school clothes and so we decided to do a lemonade stand to earn money to buy some backpacks to give,” Swain said.

The first year the Sawins bought 20 backpacks. The next year they raised funds for 50. Year three they donated 89, and year four they donated 115. Sawin said as family and friends have learned about the project, they have offered more and more support. This is why she and her sons could donate so many this year.

“It feels awesome,” Sawin said. “I have cried so much this year just with all of the people who have said they wanted to help and donate.”

The first three years, the Sawins donated their backpacks to a few organizations throughout the valley. Last year they decided to send all the bags to Little Lambs since the organization works with many of the places they had donated to in the past.

Sawin said the experience has helped her children learn to think more about the people around them.

“It has made them more compassionate and empathetic towards other kids their age, knowing that there are kids that they go to school with that maybe had to be removed from their home,” Sawin said.

Backpacks will be distributed on Friday from 6 to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1125 W. 400 North, Suite 200, Logan. Children will also receive pajamas and a book.

Distribution will be on a first-come first-served basis. Children must be present to receive supplies or a birth certificate may be provided for each child. Supplies are available to all foster, kinship and low-income families.

For more information or to donate to Little Lambs, visit littlelambsofutah.org.